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How old were you when you had your stroke? 29

  • Date of your stroke?  10/06/1990
  • What general area do you live in?   Currently, I live in Overland Park, Kansas (suburb of Kansas City). My stroke happened while I was living in Ocala, Florida
  • Type of Stroke?  I had a left middle cartoid artery disection.
  • Any known reasons for your stroke? They are unsure as the why I had a stroke.
  • What were your symptoms? The only symptom I had was a slight headache the moring of my stroke. I was a young healthy man. I played tennis twice a week, ran 3 miles 2-3 times a week, my blood pressue was normal, heart was healthy, chosterol was normal and I do not have a famliy history of stroke.
  • Where did you go for inpatient rehab?  I did not have any in-patient rehab.
  • Where did you go for outpatient rehab?  I had speech and occupational therapy at the Ocala Rehab Center in Ocala, Florida

What are your biggest challenges/residual effects?

Initial deficits were: total paralysis on right side of body (arms, hands, legs, feet, face…), Global Aphasia, the most severe type of Aphasia. Global Aphasia is where the survivor produces few recognizable words and understands little or no spoken language. I had severe speech deficits, couldn’t comprehend basic commands, unaware of my situation, no recognition of letters and numbers. Days after my stroke, I had not t even spoken one word. The doctors had concerns that I may never speak, I would have memory loss and the doctors were concerned that I may never walk, talk or have a rational thought again. The doctors did not paint a positive future for me.By the grace of god, I regained feeling on my right side within ten days of my stroke. My paralysis went almost completely away. And I started to walk. A true blessing that is unexplainable even 24 years later.

Communication skills, not so lucky. I have still never spoke a word yet days after my stroke. My entire family sitting by my bedside, a friend walks into my hospital room and I said with perfect pronunciation, “Hello Mike, how are you”. My family was astonished and so happy to hear me speak. Unfortunately, this was the only clear words spoken for some time. It took many months to learn to put together a sentence with somewhat clear pronunciation. Years later and still today it is my speech that prevents me from achieving full recovery.Also, I have fine motor skills deficiency where my right hand and fingers doesn’t act as I would want them to. From what I know, there is a part of the brain called Basil Ganglia where communication passes through before it goes to the extremities. There is a slight delay as it passes through the Basil Ganglia. The most obvious would be my hand writing. I am right handed but I cannot write with my right hand. I have what is called, Micrographia. Simply put, my hand writing starts out with the first letter fairly legible but quickly the letters to follow get extremely smaller. As I get to the third or fourth letter it is so small that it is illegible. I have worked for hours upon hours, days upon days, weeks upon weeks, months upon months trying to find a way correct this opportunity. There were no suggestions from the professional therapist other than to write one letter, wait a few seconds and write the next letter. This works in theory but not in real life. After about seven months into my recovery, I decided that I will teach myself to write with my left hand. Twenty four years later, I am a left handed writer. In fact, I use my left hand for so many things that I consider myself ambidextrous.

Initially after my stroke I had short term memory loss but through therapy, time and my will to get back to normal I no longer have any memory loss. At least none that I can remember. Life is funny; you have to have a little fun with it sometimes. I do sometimes have a hard time with word retrieval.

My stroke has been a life altering event and has impacted the lives of my children, friends and other family members. Also, it has taught me to appreciate life and how precious life is and that life is short. I try to live each day as if it is my last day, At the same time, plan for the days to come.

What was something that kept you going during your stay in the hospital that might encourage others?

I had prayer in my life, I had friends and relatives willing to help but what the biggest help came from within me and my will to survive, will to return back to the man I once was and a work ethic like no others. I didn’t take the medical professionals advice when it came to rehabilitation. I continued to ask for more time in rehab so that I can get better and so as quick as humanly possible.

What keeps you going now?

I have so many positive and encouraging people throughout the years and they all have played a part in my post stroke life. In recent years, once I started talking about my stroke more with people, I have found that compassionate people offer only positive thoughts and encouragement. The lesson here is get out there and tell your story of survival to help others.

What advice would you give someone recovering from a stroke now?

Set aggressive goals (short term, mid term and long term ). My long term goal – complete and full recovery to resume my life as it once was. I will continue to reach for the stars but if do not get there, its okay, It’s okay!! I have done so much more by trying. Continued progress results in a victory in the end. I’m sure of this.

Have hope, be determined and find your inspiration. An inspiration is a person or persons or a thing, hobby or a job that pushes you or inspires you to achieve greater things. At the time of my stroke, I had two lovely children. My daughter was five and my son was just three years old. It is from them I got my inspiration to work every day to get back to where I once was. I could not have them growing up with their father in the state that I was once in. I did not want to interfere with their development and in fact, I wanted them to be proud of me for things accomplished and not proud for just living with a stroke.

My children are my “Why”. Why I will not only survive the Stroke but prosper as a Stroke Survivor. I love my children more than life itself.

When all the layers of who I am are peeled off and how I go about my life is quite simple and It can be summed up this way: Positive thoughts, love life, life is sweet, closeness with family, and a belief that I am always getting better each and every day and never settle for the obvious. Bitterness, why me or feeling sorry for myself, I have too little time for this thinking. Life is too short there is nothing good to come from this thinking. That being said, I have had these “why me” thoughts but do so very seldom and never for longer than one day. When the sun rises again, it is a new day. Surround yourself with those who love you for who you are, believe in yourself, do for others and be grateful for the blessings you have received.

Surround yourself with those who love you for who you are, believe in yourself, do for others and be grateful for the blessings you have received.

Any other missing details to your story?:

I want to share my story and help others. The uniqueness of my stroke, the early diagnosis and prognosis of recovery, the rehabilitation process and the post stroke work, I want to share my experiences with others. And my 24 years living and working with my stroke, I have insights and wisdom through real life experiences that I want to share to help as many people as I can in their post stroke journey. I can be most helpful in so many ways to these courageous people.

How did you hear about NOPW?

Amy and I were volunteering for the American Heart and Stroke Association, doing a radio interview and her story and her desire to help other truly inspired me to join forces. I feel blessed to have met Amy and her husband Johnny. They are a fantastic couple that I know they will do great things for young stroke survivors nationwide

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